Featured Image Source: Neuralink
Elon Musk’s neurotechnology company, Neuralink, aims to push the limits of what a brain-machine interface is capable of. – “We’re designing the first neural implant that will let you control a computer or mobile device anywhere you go,” the company states. The implant device is called ‘Link’, it is a small round chip that features 1,024 thin electrode threads that are designed to stimulate neurons inside the brain. Each thread is inserted with a surgical robot to avoid human error, “Micron-scale threads are inserted into areas of the brain that control movement. Each thread contains many electrodes and connects them to an implant, the Link,” Neuralink explains on its website.
The company’s initial goal is to help individuals with paralysis have control over computerized devices. Neuralink says the brain implant is “designed to give people the ability to communicate more easily via text or speech synthesis, to follow their curiosity on the web, or to express their creativity through photography, art, or writing apps.”
Long-term, Musk and his engineering teams aim to create a device that would improve the human condition in a variety of ways. “This technology has the potential to treat a wide range of neurological disorders, to restore sensory and movement function, and eventually to expand how we interact with each other, with the world, and with ourselves,” the company says. Eventually, Musk sees a future where a Link brain-machine interface is accessible to the general public for recreational use. The user would download the Neuralink App on their mobile phone that would allow “control” over an “iOS device, keyboard and mouse directly with the activity of your brain, just by thinking about it.”
The Link chip would connect wirelessly to the app. The company says that “with a Bluetooth connection, you would control any mouse or keyboard, and experience reality -unmediated and in high fidelity.”
Musk said that in the future Neuralink could feature the capability to summon your Tesla car with a thought and play video games. Getting the implant will be “quite expensive” initially, but once the device is offered on a large-scale he hopes to decrease the Link implant price to somewhere in the “thousand-dollar” range.
The company’s website features a new render that shows an example of the Neuralink app that “would guide you through exercises that teach you to control your device.” The images, pictured below, shows a graphic demonstrating an exercise the user will do - to essentially train the chip in the brain to control a cell phone. The graphic says: “To move the cursor attempt to move your hand in the desired direction.” As the user moves their hand, the chip is reading the signals the brain emits through specific movements -“Neuralink trains to pick up increasingly accurate signals,” the graphic reads.
The company is currently developing and testing the Link chip on pigs and plans to initiate human trials soon. Neuralink received a Breakthrough Device designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July. Musk said last month they are “preparing for first human implantation soon, pending required approvals and further safety testing.” The first clinical trial will implant the Link device on paralyzed individuals resulting from cervical spinal cord injury.